A Circle

We were seated together out of Chicago,
she by the window and I on the aisle,
and that’s where we stayed, strangers
on the long bus ride west, two sleepers
lost in the same American dreamscape.

She told me her theory of everything —
Paul was the South, warm, sensual;
John was the North, cold, analytical:
George, the East, heavy, mystical;
Ringo, the West, light, comical.

Her short, plump legs barely reached the floor.

She bumped my knee one night
as she squeezed by to go to the bathroom
and I opened one eye to see her ass
in faded jeans, round and blue as a prairie sky.

She got off in Winnemucca at midnight
into the cold desert air under a billion stars.
I played a nickel slot at the diner,
then slept through the Sierras
and woke to sunrise in Oakland.

In the cold fog of San Francisco,
I ate a bowl of noodles, then wandered
toward the Pacific, so far west
that I was facing the East.

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Near Nashville

He’s lost the whiskey-weight,
ropy biceps coiled under denim.

She leans into him on a wooden bench,
looking out from under auburn bangs.

She is all bone and tendon
in her short macrame dress,

shadows between her knees and thighs
and along sharp shin-lines.

It’s all angles except for loops
formed by their left thumbs and fingers.

What is that one poster left
on the nearly bare staple-stuck wall?

He has written all the break-
up songs. Time to move on.

In Joyce’s Studio

Up the time-worn stairs
you will find a place
to come to do good work
a place to come to

and the trees
white birch trunks
on fields of blackest void
and merest blue ghosts
are a place too
a place of fine lines
and absolute edges

O the trees are people
with no legs nor heads
just trunks and eyes
limbs and crotches
or all legs
with scarred knees
and stitched incisions
tracing the rough gestures of
dull blades

and don’t you know
there are dark spaces
behind every tree
black shapes
that swallow light
and reflect the shape of absence

and the absence of shape
and all that lies between
are white paper birches
living pages
of one woman’s history
written in striate code

and who can say
whether the zebra is
white on black or black on white
and does it even matter.

Yerma Means Barren in Spanish

A poet told me today
the barren space is shaped like God.

I have never found God,
so maybe He is right behind me,

between the breaths of air I just parted
with my bullish striding,

or in the empty womb,
not so much a space as a clench

of despair waiting to give birth
to miracles never realized.

*Yerma was the first of Federico Garcia Lorca’s three “rural tragedies,” plays he wrote in the 1930s that depicted the brutality of rural Spanish society, its gender roles and honor codes, its religion (medieval Catholicism) and its strict sexual morality. The other two were Blood Wedding (Bodas de sangre) and The House of Bernarda Alba (La casa de Bernarda Alba). Lorca was executed by fascists in the Spanish Civil War for his liberal views, opposition to the Franco regime, and open bisexuality.

Fur

Lately my life’s like your old fur coat
small skin squares stitched together
in the shape of a human torso and arms
frayed and coming apart at the seams
a bit shabby and neglected and overdue
for the needlework of diligent hands
to stitch me up and make me whole
or better yet just pull me close
across your red sweater this cold
cold night won’t get me down
because now I see it’s the body within
that warms the coat and gives it shape
and nothing else except of course
a matching fur hat.